The Old World Perseveres in New Milwaukee
Story and photography by Joe Laedtke
“If you love something, you should do it. If you do something, you should love it.”
Frank Jakubczak bears a striking resemblance to his life’s work in sausage: simple, unadorned externally. Get past the surface, though, and things take on depth and richness that are at the same time a complete surprise and a beautiful respite from the ordinary.
“One of the masters I learned from said to me, ‘Make something you want to eat. If you don’t want to eat it, your customers won’t, either.’ I’ve always made a product I’d want to eat.”
Frank lovingly showed his cache of spices, pulling each container off the shelf and describing it. When he lifted the shaker of ginger, I asked, “Ginger? What sausage is that in?” Frank didn’t miss a beat, “Oh, some of them…”
Later, he admitted, “I’ll tell you what spices I use, but it’s my secret about how much and in what. As long as I’m here doing this, no one gets to know that,” and his eyes sparkled.
At lunch, I told Frank that I think of him like a celebrity. Last Christmas, when my mother and I visited the packed-to-capacity shop, Frank came out from the back room, smiled, waved, and wished the teeming crowd, “Merry Christmas” in his gentle mid-European accent. The customers cheered. I felt like I had just witnessed a rock star. Frank paused from his sandwich of dry toast and Krakowska, lifted one corner of his mouth, and said, “Ah, Christmas is a busy time.”
His humility is staggering.
European Homemade Sausage Shop
1985 S. Muskego Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53204
Joe Laedtke has been a life-long food enthusiast, starting when he was still a kid growing up in Washington Heights, watching his grandma Shirley intently as she taught him her secret recipes for onion dip, turkey gravy, and rouladen, and even through college as he delivered pizzas throughout the greater Ripon area in a 1978 AMC Pacer. These days, he proudly represents the unique combination of freelance photographer and licensed funeral director, and has garnered national attention with his website, Eating Milwaukee, including a segment on CBS This Morning. He has absolutely no willpower whatsoever around essentially any Asian cuisine.